The Misrepresentation Of Juneteenth
By Carl Mack
Former President of Seattle King County NAACP
I strongly oppose the proposed Washington State Bill 1016, and I strongly oppose the passage of Ordinance 19209 by the Metropolitan King County Council, both designed to designate Juneteenth as a state holiday. To date, 46 States have approved June 19 as a paid or legal state holiday. No problem. The issue is the historical reason used to justify their efforts to remember. Many have stated that June 19, 1865 ended slavery in America, which is historically speaking, grossly wrong. The State of Washington in their proposed legislation of Bill 1016 stands as a perfect example: “…The legislature intends to designate Juneteenth as a state legal holiday to celebrate the end of chattel slavery.” In addition, the language of King County Ordinance 19209 also uses similar language to justify the mis-educated belief that Juneteenth is an historically appropriate day to celebrate the end of chattel slavery.
Other states have used similar language/justifications to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam stated, “It mattered then because it marked the end of slavery in this country.” However, a historical fact that many people either are not aware of or choose to ignore officially ended chattel slavery in America. In order for a proposal to become an amendment two requirements must be met: 2/3 approval of the Congress and 3/4 of the states must ratify the proposal in order for it to become law as an amendment. At the time, there were 36 states in America and 27 were needed to ratify the proposal. Georgia was the 27th state to ratify the proposal, which became the 13th Amendment on December 6, 1865, thus ending chattel slavery. It must be noted that in the six months leading up to the ratification by Georgia — June 19, 1865 and December 6, 1865 — there were at least 225,000 Black people enslaved in Kentucky alone. Chattel slavery was still LEGAL in the United States and practiced in Delaware and Kentucky.
The bill, ordinance, and others like it speak to why Black history should be taught. Blacks got it wrong, Whites got it wrong, Americans of all hues got this wrong. If indeed Black Lives Matter, then the historical actions of these governmental entities are historically saying those still enslaved Don’t Matter. I am in favor of celebrating and remembering June 19; however, I am not in favor of celebrating the notion of ALL or how EVAH you think, when I remember those 225,000-plus who were not free.
It is historically clear that Black Liberation Day should be December 6. Those Black legislators and supporters of the current actions, I applaud your intent. However, if your intent is pure, then put aside your ego and replace it with truth and honor. America would never allow anyone to designate July 3rd as Independence Day. Not one person reading this article would accept any day other than their birthday as fact. So why should we accept what is a bold, and now popular, historical error in the spirit of acknowledging America’s Original Sin? I’ll tell you why…IGNORANCE. Ben Franklin once said, “the only thing more expensive than education is ignorance.” Franklin once owned slaves, he corrected his error. Out of respect for my ancestors, ALL my ancestors, Remembrance, Honor, and History is loudly calling upon you, in the words of Spike Lee, to Do The Right Thing!
We all remember 9/11. In the aftermath, America wanted retribution. Republicans and Democrats alike voted to go to war with Iraq because the nation was told they had weapons of mass destruction. I remember Washington State Representative Jim McDermott attempting to tell the nation the facts as presented were inaccurate. He was labeled unpatriotic and “Baghdad Jim.” History is clear that Rep. McDermott was “American Jim.”
I understand the shame America has about her original sin, which is, in part, why the Black Experience, aka, Black History is not taught in schools today. There is a price for our ignorance, and today, following the ‘wokeness’ of America because of the murder of George Floyd, we have sat quietly by and watched 46 States dishonor those quarter of a million Black people.
Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword, so as a simple fix, let’s use the pen. For those who have passed the legislation, simply change the date from June 19 to December 6, and ALL will be honored. True leaders, when faced with new accurate information, change course. Those who don’t…in the words of A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the TRUTH!”